Outer Space Is One of the Best Climbs in Washington State
Outer Space in Leavenworth is easily one of the best 5.9 climbs in Washington State. It’s such a quality route that it also makes an appearance among Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite North American Climbs. As someone who climbed obsessively from the time he was a teenager right up until the very end at 94, that’s saying something.
The striking fifth pitch is what makes the climb: a perfect hand crack splits the rock 400 feet off the ground with knobby chickenheads to grapple with on either side. The crack on its own would be stellar, but something about the knobby granite lumps — that provide ample foot rests and handholds — bring out your inner child, putting a huge smile on your face as you clamber your way up.
But this climb isn’t a one-pitch-wonder. The climbing leading to the “money pitch” and the final pitch after are stellar in their own way.
When fellow Madness guide Amber Smith and I climbed it recently, we chose to climb the first pitch in approach shoes to cross a small patch of snow at the base of the route. The decision was fine and dandy until we got to a few spots requiring delicate, traversing footwork. In those moments, I found myself greatly appreciating the sticky rubber and precision in my normal climbing shoes. Which made me wonder: what the heck did Fred Beckey climb this route in back in 1968 when he nabbed the first ascent?
On the topic of gear: as you climb the route, you climb past a few rusty pitons, much larger than what I’ve seen elsewhere. The idea of hammering in a huge piton compared to the relative ease of placing a cam is enough to make you appreciate modern climbing equipment. I remember coming across one piton in particular that looked like it had been snapped in half and wondering how that happened. (It probably wasn’t a good time for the climber that broke it.) Amber and I decided not to trust any of the old, remnant gear on the route. Mountain Project recommends a sparse double rack, but we decided to bring triples in #1 and #2 size Camalots. We did not regret this decision, given the length of most every pitch on the route. (Don’t forget to bring your .1 cam for the traversing crux pitch!) Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the pitons. You’ll have to climb the route to see them for yourself!
If you like adventure climbing, you’re going to love this route. This climb really has it all: enough pitches to make for a committing adventure, a diversity of climbing techniques and styles, decent views, and a few stand-out pitches that will stick with you for years to come. And in Amber’s and my case, it’s a route we look forward to returning to. Fred Beckey done good opening this one up. Climb it!